As we progress through different stages in life, some things (more like thoughts or mindsets) seem to hold us back. Things such as; “I’m not old enough” or “I’m too old” or “I’m not qualified enough” or “I’m not good looking enough” or “I don’t have the needed resources” etc.
In the thoughts of a friend, these words can be called “Mindsets of Disaster”. They are simply thoughts that pop up in our minds and we affirm by repeating to ourselves whenever a fitting situation arises. These excuses show up frequently over the course of our lives at different stages; especially when we are about to make important decisions such as starting a business.
Immediately you start thinking of quitting your job or not accepting the job offer and starting your own business, these mindsets of disaster kicks in. It points out how you are not an expert in the field because you don’t have a specialized degree; it reminds of how your parents still see you as a child and questions why your clients will take you seriously, talk more of the employees you are going to need to recruit; it confronts you with the reality of the less than 50,000 Naira in your bank account with no savings or extra source of income; and it crowns it by suggesting that you don’t even look good enough or have the right clothes to be taken seriously.
When I first began aspiring to a career as a Venture Capitalist and setting up my own Venture Capital Firm; the first thought that sprang into my head was the fact that I am a trained chemist and although I have picked interest in and started processing stocks and shares since I was 14, that wasn’t going to matter as long as I didn’t have a PhD with extensive years of experience in the field. Another thought I had was how young I was and how nobody will take me seriously – this repeated itself a couple of times. It was the strongest urge, and one I battled for a long time; I kept telling myself how people in the field were probably all “men” above the age of 30 and I was a young single female in my 20s. These gave me a lot of hang; besides the fact that I didn’t have the money to register the company, talk more of start.
However, little by little I overcame those fears, and started! But I first had to acknowledge and accept the fact that there were some parts of my business I probably wouldn’t be able to build without specialization in the field of investment and finance. However, I also realized that there were in fact some parts of the business I could very well build with my present qualifications, skills and experience; all I needed to do was scale down and start small. So, I got to work, broke down my idea into component parts that’s served a distinct and whole purpose; were marketable and sellable; needed by my target audience; and that I could pull off at the time with the resources available to me (otherwise technically referred to as a Minimum Viable Product), then I started.
This brings to mind another common misconception aspiring entrepreneurs face – specialization. So you want to start an IT firm but you are a lawyer or you want to a medical practice but you are an architect. Not all of us are lucky enough to have entrepreneurial interests in our field of training and specialization and this raises a major barrier to us achieving our entrepreneurial aspirations.
The fault lies in our approach and perspective. We assume that we need to be experts in these new fields to be able to succeed in it and we know that would take time and money which may not be available to us or we may not have to spare at the time. We however forget that we are entrepreneurs and can’t be specialist at everything; a lot of entrepreneurs start 2 or 3 businesses over their lifetime, you can’t become an expert in every field you start a business in.
Simply put, many of the skills needed to start and run a business in 2015 can’t be learned in business school. The work ethic, optimism, judgment, and ability to sell and grow a business aren’t taught in school. While getting a college degree holds social and educational merits, acquiring a business degree is far from mandatory to starting and running a successful business. In fact, some say you’d be better off investing all that tuition money in your first business instead. Think about it! Almost all the businesses we see and admire today weren’t started by “experts” or specialized degree owners; in fact a lot of college dropouts are succeeding in business nowadays and employing the “experts”.
The optimism and perseverance needed to get started in business is not taught in most business schools. The person who runs the most experiments with pig-headed discipline and continues to innovate, improve, and iterate models will be in far better shape than someone who attended business school and needs to make everything look good on paper before getting started. However, if you have the experience, skills, resources, and networks to make starting your business feasible, then go for it. You can team up with an expert co-founder or employ someone with the requisite skills, qualifications and experience to build your business.
Back to the concept of “Mindset of Disaster”, another thing you need to attack is the negative mindset of not having enough money to start a business and how you have to wait till an investor or Venture Capitalist takes notice of you and gives you money so you can finally begin work on your idea. Listen, people don’t invest in dreams or wishes; they need to see what you have done. Have you tested your product/service? Do you have a business plan? Have you put any of your own money into the idea? The real reason you haven’t started yet is maybe that you’re starting too big. You’ve set your sights on a fully staffed, top-of-the-line, penthouse-style web design agency that only works with fortune 500 companies. Why don’t you break your idea down into levels; what’s the smallest level of your business you can start today with what you have? What new skills can you learn? What friend can help build a part of your business? Stop waiting around for someone to hand you $1, 000,000 to start your dream. Work for it, plan for it, and make it happen. In this day and age, with the vast resources available to us in the form of the Internet, you can do virtually anything!
My advice is that you sit down with yourself for a little “What’s holding me back session” and be brave enough to ask yourself the difficult questions! What do I want for my life? When do I want it? How can I get it? What do I need? Who do I need? What are my mindsets of disaster? What am I constantly telling myself? What’s holding you back? Perhaps answering this questions will help.
This article first appeared in Business Day Newspaper on Monday 27 April 2015